Another natural occurrance, another tinfoil hat tale of terror.
The Earth is overdue for the magnetic poles to flip, and a recently released book has the conspiracy theorists in an uproar.
According to the doomsayers, Earth ‘under ATTACK from within’ and could face ‘BLACKOUTS for DECADES’ as the poles flip, and
parts of the Earth could be “uninhabitable” due to pronounced exposure to solar radiation if the world’s north and south magnetic poles shift, leaving citizens facing a “domino run of blackouts lasting decades”, it has been claimed.
Science author Alanna Mitchell has delivered the stark warning in an article that declares the Earth is “under attack from within” and that a shift in poles could have dire consequences.
Ms Mitchell warned that a shift means the important shield surrounding the Earth called a magnetic field could be “compromised for centuries”.
She wrote: “Because grids are so tightly coupled with each other, failure would race across the globe, causing a domino run of blackouts that could last for decades.
“The shield could be compromised for centuries while the poles move, allowing malevolent radiation closer to the surface of the planet for that whole time. Already, changes within the Earth have weakened the field over the South Atlantic so much that satellites exposed to the resulting radiation have experienced memory failure.
“It turns out that the dipole — the orderly two-pole magnetic field our compasses respond to — is under attack from within.
“The Earth’s magnetic field protects our planet from dangerous solar and cosmic rays, like a giant shield. As the poles switch places (or try to), that shield is weakened; scientists estimate that it could waste away to as little as a tenth of its usual force.”
According to an Undark report, the flip could cause “devastating streams of particles from the sun, galactic cosmic rays, and enhanced ultraviolet B rays from a radiation”.
The report warned that satellite timing systems that govern electric grids could fail, causing a ripple effect that would shut off lights, computers and phones. Even flushing the toilet could become impossible, according to the article.
The article shared concerns from Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who warned “that parts of the planet will become uninhabitable during a reversal”.
But a global apocalypse isn’t guaranteed, as NASA explains: “Many doomsday theorists have tried to take this natural geological occurrence and suggest it could lead to Earth’s destruction.”
“But would there be any dramatic effects? The answer, from the geologic and fossil records we have from hundreds of past magnetic polarity reversals, seems to be ‘no’.”
But conspiracy theorists have a list of things they believe will happen if Earth’s magnetic field flips.
Mass extinction: Some experts believe changes to the magnetic field would allow dangerous particles to rain down on Earth.
They say the magnetic field disappears entirely during a flip, leaving us vulnerable. However, this theory proved controversial and several scientists have said mass extinctions are unlikely to be caused by the flip.
The atmosphere could disapppear: Thankfully, this scenario is highly unlikely. However, it is believed that Mars’ atmosphere was stripped by the solar wind because is does not have a strong magnetic field.
The economy could collapse: The flip could bring down power grids across the world, potentially crashing stock markets and stopping economies from working properly.
According to National Geographic, if geologic history repeats itself, Earth’s magnetic poles should eventually swap places.
This much is undeniable.
Based on the magnetic fingerprints locked into ancient rocks, we know that over the last 20 million years, magnetic north and south have flipped roughly every 200,000 to 300,000 years (this rate has not been constant over the planet’s lifetime, though). The last of these major reversals occurred about 780,000 years ago, although the Poles do wander around in between these larger flips.
That means we’re a bit overdue for a total reversal, and some data do, in fact, suggest that a geomagnetic reversal is geologically imminent. But this does not mean a polar flip-flop is going to happen tomorrow, or even any time soon, and we’d put good money on North still being in the Arctic for a while—although neither we nor anyone else knows when the next total reversal will actually happen.
So what exactly could happen?
Also unclear. Scientists estimate that past polar flips have been rather sluggish, with north and south migrating to opposite positions over thousands of years. This is both good and bad if you’re concerned about how a geomagnetic reversal will affect life on Earth.
The sluggish polar meander is good, because it means we have time to prepare and can do our best to ameliorate any unpleasant effects before they get really unpleasant. But it’s bad, because our planet’s magnetic field helps shield us from damaging solar and cosmic radiation, and a protracted flip means Earth might be slightly less protected from harmful space rays for longer than we would like.
It’s also not very dramatic, because it means you won’t suddenly wake up and find out that your smartphone thinks Santa’s workshop is in the Southern Hemisphere.
The only major, noticeable effect that’s guaranteed to occur when the polar flop is finished is that your compass needle will tell you that North is in Antarctica and South is somewhere near Canada. This will make the names of the American continents temporarily confusing (at least, on a geologic time scale) but it’ll make for a good story in classrooms.
Another interesting consequence will be that animals that use Earth’s magnetic field for navigation—including birds, salmon, and sea turtles—could get lost during their routine journeys. Eventually they will sort this out, and all other things being equal, life will go on. Lots of doomsday prophets have tried to equate geomagnetic flips with mass extinctions, but the data just aren’t there.
Not exactly. It’s true that when the poles do reverse, Earth’s magnetic field could get weaker—but its strength is already quite variable, so that’s not necessarily unusual, and there’s no indication it will vanish entirely, according to NASA.
However, if the magnetic field gets substantially weaker and stays that way for an appreciable amount of time Earth will be less protected from the oodles of high-energy particles that are constantly flying around in space. This means that everything on the planet will be exposed to higher levels of radiation, which over time could produce an increase in diseases like cancer, as well as harm delicate spacecraft and power grids on Earth.
These are consequences we can prepare for, and as far as everything below the stratosphere goes, we’ll have a nice, thick atmosphere that can also help act as a shield.
That being said, one total bonus of having a weaker magnetic field is that auroras will be visible from much lower latitudes, so the nighttime skies will be even more epic.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
February 1st, 2018